By Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter: @BostonDiGiorgio
The New York Islanders are a problem for the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have yet to beat the Islanders this season, posting a 0-2-3 record. The Bruins looked like a team who benefited from a week off and ready to defeat the Islanders in the first period last night. Unfortunately, Tuukka Rask did not return to the ice after the first period, which is called an “upper-body” injury and the Bruins let the game get away from them.
While the numbers aren’t the whole story, they can give us a glimpse into the flow of the game and a starting point for a discussion on what went well, or not so much, in a given game.
The numbers above suggest the second period provided the Bruins the best opportunity to score, which is true. The Bruins benefited from a four-minute powerplay after Patrice Bergeron came away bleeding from a high stick. However, the Bruins’ once-vaunted powerplay has been stifled recently, and last night was no exception. To add to salt in the wound, the Islanders scored seconds after the four-minute powerplay concluded.
The Bruins heat map is not as red as you’d like and they didn’t generate a ton of scoring opportunities. The Islanders on the other hand, made the most of their net front presence and capitalized.
In this section, we give each player a grade for their play in this particular game. The grades are more art than science. The game scores below are one part of the equation giving us an objective measure to start with, though it doesn’t always tell you the true picture of an individual game. Hockey is a game of process and moments. Over the long haul, the process should win out, but at a game-by-game level, moments matter. Both will be considered before assigning a grade to each player. Our expectations for each player will also be a factor.
Please feel free to agree or disagree in the comments or on Twitter but keep the name-calling to a minimum.
Charlie McAvoy (A+): I am handing McAvoy an A+ here even though he was on the ice for the Islanders’ first goal. McAvoy had two assists in the game, bringing his season total to 16. He led the team in time on the ice again and is furthering his case to be named the NHL’s top defensemen at year’s end. A week ago, McAvoy ranked fourth in most primary 5v5 assists per 60 mins among NHL defensemen who’ve played over 2,000 minutes. He is in elite company in this list, three of whom have won the Norris Trophy.
Anders Bjork (A): Well, well, well, Bjork showed up in this one. His recent grades hovered around the D/F range, so it’s nice to see Bjork get back up the ladder. Bjork was all over the ice, partly thanks to his new linemates. The third line had the best game of any of the four lines last night. Charlie Coyle, flanked by Karson Kuhlman and Anders Bjork, was the most effective trio last night. Bjork had been riding a 12-game pointless streak before last night. Bjork ended the game with a goal and an assist, and he was fired up after his goal, which came 54 seconds after the Islanders broke the tie. Charlie Coyle made a slick pass to Bjork out front, who beat Semyon Varlamov’s glove.
Charlie Coyle (A): Another player who benefited from a change in lines, Charlie Coyle. Coyle had been riding an eight-game pointless streak as well. He’s been quite lackluster this year compared to his previous few. Being flanked by two young speedsters seemed to help Coyle get into a groove and finish the game with one assist in 17:36 minutes of ice time. He was also 7 of 11 at the face-off dot.
Matt Grzelcyk (A-): Grzelcyk has been quietly one of the best Bruins’ defensemen this year. His flawless breakouts and smooth passing have caught the eyes of many fans and his coach, leading to more ice time. He and McAvoy have the most success as a pairing on the Bruins and most of the league.
Karson Kuhlman (B+): We could argue this grade to be inconclusive, though I think we saw enough out of Kuhlman last night to award him a B+. After taking a shot to the hand last night, Kuhlman left the game and is scheduled to go for an MRI. Before this unfortunate event, Kuhlman scored the Bruins’ first goal of the game. Karson has tremendous speed and a wicked shot, and he can be a great complimentary bottom-six forward. He hasn’t been used often this year, and if this and injury keeps him out, we may not see him until next year, which is a real bummer. He, Coyle, and Bjork all seemed to benefit from a night together.
Chris Wagner (B+): Wagner is another player who had been receiving low marks but turned his game around. Wagner received the secondary assist on Bjork’s goal. In the video above, Wagner decides to dump the puck in deep for Coyle to chase. Coyle takes the puck around the boards after an opportune poke check and passes it out front to the wide-open Bjork. Wagner’s dump-in is a classic often used move and rarely receives compliments. He also finished the game with five hits, which is what you expect from a physical fourth-liner.
Steven Kampfer (B): Kampfer summoned his inner Russ Tyler on his goal past Varlamov. The puck knuckled past Varlamov on the powerplay. The goal was Kampfer’s first this season and first in two years. Kampfer was in David Pastrnak’s sweet spot at the time of the goal, from a great play by David Krejci.
David Krejci (B-): Speaking of Krejci, while he made a great play for the eventual goal, that was all he could muster. Krejci lost the puck before passing it off to McAvoy, stayed with it, and kept the play alive. Other than that, though, Krejci played just an average game. He had a low 43.8% success rate at the face-off dot and only had a shot on goal. It’s been apparent that his line has struggled mightily over the course of the year, and the Bruins need him to be more consistent if they want to go far.
Nick Ritchie & Trent Frederic (C+): Neither player was noticeable in last night’s game. They both have cooled off from their hot starts. Ritchie and Krejci haven’t provided additional scoring, and Frederic was not his usual pestering self. Ritchie played the second-most minutes of the forward group but only had two shots, two hits, and a block to show for it. He is still being used in man-advantage situations but will need to pick the scoring back up.
Patrice Bergeron (C): The captain had a game he’ll want to forget. He drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty, but the Bruins didn’t show anything for it. Bergeron landed five shots on goal, with none getting past Varlamov. Scoring isn’t the only thing Bergeron is known for; he is also highly-touted for his defensive ability and face-off percentage. He was not on the ice for a goal and had a 66% success rate at the dot. Though for his 18 minutes on ice, the top line didn’t generate much offense, and he’s equally accountable for that.
Greg McKegg (C): General Manager Don Sweeney signed Greg McKegg to provide alternate energy when his usual players arent providing it. McKegg played an average game providing only two shots and one block with 10 minutes of ice time. His ice time speaks to the lack of success he had during last night’s game.
David Pastrnak (C-): Pastrnak usually tops the list in player grades, though last night was not one of those times. Pastrnak couldn’t generate much last night even though he led the forward group in time on ice (19:49). He had two shots on goal, which is his lowest in seven games. The Bruins had ample opportunities to score on the powerplay, and Pastrnak is their main weapon who needs to lead the charge.
Jarred Tinordi (C-): It was great to see Tinordi back and healthy after his exit from a scary (but legal) hit from Brandon Tanev. He wasn’t noticeable last night, which is usually a good thing for a defenseman. Unfortunately, he was on the ice for an Islanders’ goal and only generated two hits. With his big 6’6 frame, we’d expect a bit more physicality. Though, it’s understandable if the Bruins want to ease him back slowly.
Craig Smith (C-): Smith may want to have a re-do of this year. He has been snake-bitten and unable to shake it with only 10 points in 28 games. He had a mini breakaway on Varlamov and tried to stuff the puck five-hole but was stopped by the Islanders’ goaltender. It is known around the league that Craig loves shooting the puck with every opportunity he has. In his 10-year career, he’s averaging almost 3 shots per game. The puck just isn’t finding the back of the net, and the Bruins need him to find a scoring streak soon.
Jakub Zboril (D+): Bruins fans and its management knew that Zboril would go through growing pains this year, and last night’s game was evident of that. Zboril wasn’t as strong with the puck or smart with it as he normally is. He was the second-least used defensemen in last night’s game, only ahead of Tinordi. Jeremy Lauzon seems to be making his way back, which should help Zboril consistently stay on one pairing.
Brad Marchand (D): Marchand has been in Selke Trophy (best defensive offensive forward) contention this year, which would be an incredible feat for a winger. Unfortunately, last night’s game will not help his case. He picked up a lazy holding penalty late in the game and didn’t record a shot on goal. Not a great game for the top line.
Connor Clifton (D-): Clifton is teetering on the D-/F range, but I didn’t want to fail him outright. Clifton may benefit from a healthy scratch, as he’s had a rough couple of games. He and Smith were the only players to record a -2 for the game. He’s struggled on the penalty kill as well. It was a game to forget for Cliffy.
Jaroslav Halak (D-): Honestly, the D- is a bit of an unfair grade for Halak. He doesn’t deserve to be failed, even though the overtime goal was putrid. Halak entered the game after Rask left with an injury. Many do not realize this, but a goalie having to come in when they don’t expect it is not easy. Every player has played at least a period, and Halak came in unexpectedly and understandably cold. He should have made a more complete save on the overtime goal. He will get a crack at redemption on Saturday.
Tuukka Rask (INC): It really pains me to give Rask an inconclusive because he left the game hurt. He played a great first period, stopping a few dicey shots. After the first period, he left the game due to an “upper-body” injury, and he is out for their weekend games. It is certainly not an encouraging sign for a team who desperately needs near-flawless goaltending right now. Let’s hope it’s not an injury that lingers too long.
Moment Of The Night
Unfortunately, the moment of the night probably goes to the Islanders, who came back yet again and beat the Bruins. The Bruins need to find a way to break the Islanders’ spell they have on them. The Islanders are destined for the playoffs, and it’s likely the Bruins see them when the stakes are high.